Retreat update and exhibition news

What can I say about the first ten day residential retreat in Ireland? How can I thank all involved for their incredible hospitality and professional service? Certainly a short update here doesn’t do anything to honour an event that workshop participants, the various hosts and the amazing venue made so special. I’m not going to post anything more today except this shot of us with Philip Cushen at Cushendale Woollen Mill.  I promise faithfully that I’ll write a proper review of the retreat as soon as Kilkenny Arts Festival is over then post it here with copious pictures!!!


For now though I’m in the final throes of installing my solo exhibition at Grennan Mill Craft School as well as collating what  I need to deliver to Kilkenny as part of the FORM pop up shop. Both these events open on Friday so I’ve not got much time to get everything finished! Thank you so much to Naomi, Merridee and Keith for all your help preparing for Grennan, I’ll post properly about the show at the end of August.IMG_1802





Invitation to an evening of celebrating at Kilkenny Arts Festival

It's difficult to keep up with everything online right now. So many exciting things are happening all at once and I'm also busy doing my bit to make sure that the 'FORM Designmade in Carlow' pop up shop in Kilkenny is manned and stocked. Please come along on Thursday night to help us celebrate out second year of participation in the Kilkenny Arts Festival, we'll have drinks and nibbles from 5.30pm and its a great chance to meet fellow makers and group members!

Eco printed up-cycled clothing, cushions and felt sculpture in Kilkenny



Sea Shapes, the first pictures and reflections from setting up the exhibition

Looking back over the pictures I have taken over the last few days during the set up and start of the exhibition it is obvious that I need to take some more because my phone/camera is having some difficulty adjusting to the whiteness and the light in the space.  I am however, just going to post a few here today to give you a little idea of what I have been up to and share what the atmosphere is now like in the room.

Walls and radiator prior to filling and painting, no lights fitted yet

Each of the 6 artists exhibiting in Grennan Craft Mill were allocated their space approx 2 years ago (there  is now a 4 year waiting list to exhibit here for the festival!) and for me the room I am in is the perfect size for my felt, not too big and not too small, it serves as the students dining room during the teaching year.  All the levels of the mill were painted prior to the students show in June at the end of their  two year course which meant that the paint on the walls was fresh.  I did need to remove nails and screws etc. from where paintings had been hung and as well as filling and painting the resultant holes etc. I decided to paint the radiator as it definitely looked grubby and took away from the freshness of the white walls.  Usually I mix up my own filler when doing any repair jobs but for ease of convienience and in an effort to get everything done in time for the weekend I bought a ready made tube of a propriatory brand only to discover once I was using it the paste was grey and not white.  Hmmm, it did dry in 5 minutes as it promised but unfortunately needed several coats of paint in order to hide the underlying colour therefore meaning more time after all, you live and learn but it definitely didn’t say on the outside that the paste was not white, I checked!

Radiator painted, walls and plinths finished, lights installed

Once I was happy with the walls and the radiator I painted another couple of coats onto Eileen’s plinths and then was ready for Alan’s help setting up the spotlights.  Really he did a great job, SO many people have been asking about the lighting, we used little spotlights on a simple industrial looking silver track, the lights can be positioned anywhere on the track but our difficulty was that we were restricted to the length that actually came in the box!  A lot of thought later, positioning the black transformer and wiring in the kitchen, running new white flex around the roof etc. we got everything sorted to our satisfication, it was 11.40 at night before we left that night but definitely this work has made a big difference to the overall feel of the room and how the felt may be viewed.

To complete the set up I added a lightweight white and blue curtain to cover the kitchen door and Kilkenny Arts Festival provided very nice posters for us to use as part of our publicity materials.  I added one to the door of my room beside where I have my name, interestingly the door is painted orange and the colours in the poster are mainly turquoise, two of the highlight colours from my felt vessels!  A simple jug of miscanthus and teasels on the radiator, business cards, festival brochures, book for comments, price list and my artist statement finished the room.

Entrance to Sea Shapes

Reflections on the opening weekend and more pictures to follow next post.

Exhibition set up at last and sneak look at latest Wikio rankings

This morning I made the final adjustments to my space at Grennan Mill Craft School and decided enough was enough, 7 vessels, 2 sculptures and 1 framed piece with a little free machine embroidery.  It’s always nerve wracking but exciting participating in any show and since this is actually my first solo exhibition the stress and worries about the felt I am showing and how the work is displayed are amplified about a thousand fold! Alan was brilliant setting up smart little spot lights on industrial looking tracks for me and Eileen’s plinths look great now that I have given them another couple of coats of paint.  The little holes in the wall are all filled in and painted again as is the radiator and this morning I finished cutting up hundreds of business cards which I printed last night, of course if my house and studio were tidy and organised it would be possible to locate my beautiful professional cards which are just lurking somewhere in all their pristine glory, that’s another story!!!  Fellow exhibitior Brendan Brennan and I helped Grennan Mill director extrodinare Alex Meldrum put up directional signs in Thomastown and now all our fingers are crossed for warm weather tomorrow afternoon to get everybody in a good mood for the official opening at 5.30!  I’ll try and take some pictures then but hopefully we’ll be run off our feet and they might have to wait until another day.

I’m delighted to say that I am still in the top 10 for the latest Wikio knitting blog rankings, here is the sneak preview for this month …..

1 pennies per hour of pleasure
2 needled
3 Daisie Days
4 Confessions of a YarnAddict
5 ysolda
6 The Woolly Adventures of a Knitting Kitty
7 Clasheen by Nicola Brown
8 Wendy Knits
9 Little Cotton Rabbits
10 Lixie Knits It
11 The mogs blog, the meanderings of a cat through yarn and life
12 Dyed in the Wool
13 glittyknittykitty
14 Northern Lace
15 Carolee Crafts
16 Chatiryworld
17 mooncalfmakes
18 Art Yarn
19 Quelle Erqsome
20 Purlpower

Ranking made by Wikio

Addled …..

At this stage I am totally addled and don’t know whether I am coming or going as regards the finishing of my work for Kilkenny Arts Festival.  Thanks to Carmen, Jean and Cristina who all have kept me sane over the last couple of days and Dawn and Chrissie who have put up with some depressed and frustrated emails, you guys are the best!!!  Constructive and objective advice from good friends is just what I needed, now I am felting one last piece today then tomorrow I head over to my buddy Eileen‘s house first thing in the morning.  Eileen really stepped up to the plate today when I discovered that the plinths I had been going to use are not actually available after all, big panic that is thankfully all sorted out now, thanks Eileen!

On another note I was blown away by all the birthday wishes I recieved on Saturday, amazing the power of the internet!!!  It just goes to show that we really can make true friends online and once the fuss of getting my show set up in Grennan dies down I am really looking forward to spending a week or so tidying up around the house and doing some weeding (not sure how effective that will be, it’s like a jungle outside with all this rain we are getting!) in advance of Chrissie’s trip here later in the month.  Imagine this will be the first time EVER that Chrissie and I will actually meet in the flesh!!!  We are planning a party to celebrate the launch of our book, please keep Saturday 20th August free in your diary if you would like to visit Clasheen and  have a chance to meet Chrissie yourself!

a meeting of minds…
By Chrissie Day and N…

Felting and stitching …..

I have been flat out this week trying to finish my work for Kilkenny Arts Festival which opens next weekend.  Most of my pieces are totally wet felted but a couple have some free machine embroidery to add surface detail, I know, I can’t believe I am actually writing that!  The exhibition takes place in Grennan Mill Craft School, Thomastown and I am one of 6 individual artists who all have solo shows under one roof, the setting utilises the various floors of a wonderful grain mill poised on the banks of the river Nore.  For anyone within striking distance of Thomastown please do call in during the exhibition and say hi, I will be envigilating on some days (not sure when yet) so if you are interested in meeting up please do email me in advance and I can let you know my schedual!!!

Exhibition Invitation

Apologies to those of you waiting for the final review of the new printing techniques I learnt at Felt in Focus, it is going to be a week or so before I can really relax and get stuck into writing posts properly!

Children’s felting workshops during Kilkenny Arts Festival

On the Wednesday before Sigrid returned home I was facilitating two children’s felting workshops for the Kilkenny Arts Festival and she was kind enough to give me a hand!  The organisation was supurb from the festival committee side of things and when we arrived in the morning Sigrid and I found every help available that we could possibly need to ensure the success of the day.

Participants and their great felt from the morning workshop!

Participants and their great felt from the morning workshop!

We were lucky enough to be working in the Parade Tower of Kilkenny Castle, a beautiful building that is actually the oldest part of the castle complex.  With some friendly help from the festival volunteers we set the tables up in a U formation and got the wool and bubble wrap all set up before the first children arrived for the 10.30 workshop.  The morning session was actually supposed to be 7 to 9 year olds and the afternoon 10 to 12 year olds but in actual fact ages got a bit mixed up along the way and we had a cluster from all the ages attending both sessions.

Inspired by a mobile phone

Inspired by a mobile phone

As the children arrived Sigrid manned the weighing scales and asked each of them to choose two colours, these would be the colours for the background of their piece of flat felt.  We had some gorgous colours of Icelandic wool and what was most interesting to observe was that many of the children in the first session choose green and teal.  None of them choose red in the morning whereas in the afternoon session several children choose a red and purple combination, quite an unusual observation we thought as we didn’t prompt anyone in any way!  I gave a quick demonstration of how to lay out the background explaining how the colours mixed and then the children were able to start experimenting themselves.  Once the background was laid out in several layers (we had weighed the wool to make sure that everyone would have a thick enough background and used batts as they are easier for children than tops) the children then had the fun choice of what they wanted to select to embellish their work.  I had various scraps of prefelt which we had cut into shapes, loads of different wool fibres in a range of colours, plastic onion sacks, wool yarn and some artificial hairy yarn which incorporates into felt amazingly well.

Mother and daughter

Mother and daughter

Initially I asked each child to choose three pieces of prefelt and two or three other embellishments, as only one of the participants had every felted before I didn’t want them to be too swamped with all the choice.  Once they started to add the extras if any child needed more of anything they were free to collect it from the materials table but in general limiting the embellishments proved a good idea!  Once everyone was happy with the lay out of their piece we started wetting out and rolling the work.  This proved to be an area where all the volunteers were excellent, little hands sometimes find the rolling difficult to begin with but everything really went along very smoothly indeed with a small bit of adult assistance.
Swirls and spirals

Swirls and spirals

As per usual the wetting out and soaping proved very popular with the children although nothing compared to the last process where I let them all throw and thump their felt onto towels laid out on the floor!  I explained simply how the rubbing, rolling and throwing all helped to felt and full the fibres and by the end of both workshops we had some outstanding work for all the children to show off to friends and family.  All in all Sigrid and I thought that the workshops were a great success and thanks to Sigrid for taking the photos, you can check images of every child’s felt by clicking through to Flickr.
Children with their brilliant work, volunteers and me at the afternoon session!

Children with their brilliant work, volunteers and me at the afternoon session!

More flowers and images of two new nuno mosaic scarves

I am really putting my mind down to making these flowers for my piece at Sculpture in Context.  Since Sunday morning I have made over 400 of them so in search of light relief I also made two mosaic nuno scarves ‘a la Sigrid Bannier’ with a twist!  The nuno mosaic technique I learnt last November from Sigrid and have used a lot since then, the holes are my own take on the idea to add a quirky feel to these scarves.

Detail of mosaic nuno scarf
Detail of mosaic nuno scarf

On Sigrid’s last day in Ireland she helped me with 2 children’s felting workshops that I was delivering at the Kilkenny Arts Festival.  On our way home we stopped at a great Kilkenny shop called Threads of Green and discovered some amazing printed silks on special offer.  Apparantly it is really difficult to buy printed silk in Germany and in fact the last time that Sigrid picked up some it was in Brussles!  We both bought some of the silk chiffons on special offer and I fell in love with this amazing sequined silk (unfortunately not on offer!!), hence the experiment incorporating it into a piece of nuno mosaic.  I love the way that it felted and now am off to make a larger scarf, it looks amazingly glamorous with the sequins although I don’t think too cheap and glitzy!  You can check out some more images of this piece and the other new scarf that I have made on Flickr.